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Sony on Wednesday launched the latest installations of two of the biggest-selling franchises on its PlayStation video game platform in Mumbai.
God of War: Chains of Olympus for PlayStation Portable, Sony's hand-held console, and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue for PlayStation 3, the home gaming and entertinment powerhouse, were unveiled by Atindriya Bose, Country Manager, Sony Computer Entertainment India. Rediff.com's Sameer Desai spoke to Bose (who was Director, e-commerce with Rediff.com before moving to Sony) on these new games, plans for the PlayStation brand in India, and the growth of gaming in the country.
You have focused on casual gaming with the PlayStation 2 in India with games like SingStar Bollywood, a karaoke title, and the quiz game Buzz, The Maha Quiz. Has this approach worked for you sales-wise?
Yes, we have placed an emphasis on the social gaming aspect. We have been actively promoting SingStar, Buzz and the Eye Toy camera for the PlayStation 2. We frequently hold SingStar Nights, where gamers can meet and enjoy the game. We have also carried out in-store promotions for these games. And it has worked; SingStar is picking up, and the PS2 has sold tremendously well.
Is casual gaming the way forward and do you have any more games coming?
We will continue to target the casual gamers, because I feel it is the best way to get people interested in gaming. Once they get a taste of it, it is only a matter of time before they progress to core gaming with the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and then the PlayStation 3 (PS3). Regarding specific games, we are thinking on the lines of newer variations of SingStar and Buzz.
Sony has clearly said that its main focus in India will be on the PS2. But with fewer game developers making PS2 games now, are you looking at Indian developers for PS2 games? Will we see more localised content in the near future?
Well, I wouldn't say there are no PS2 games coming out. But yes, we are now seriously looking at Indian developers as well. We already have all the elements -- we have Indian mythology that is so vast and fantastic, we have the story-telling capabilities of Bollywood, and game development is already being undertaken by the BPO industry, albeit in bits and pieces. So what we need to do is tie all these factors together and bring all these talents together.
Will Streets of Mumbai, the first racing game entirely developed in India, make it to the PS2?
Yes, that is one of the games we are looking to bring to the PS2. We are in talks with Trine Studios (the game's developers) in that regard. We are in the process of identifying Indian studios so we can work with them and provide them with the development kits and technical know-how. Hopefully we can soon develop 100 per cent Indian intellectual properties that will gain worldwide recognition.
Does Sony plan to start a game development studio of its own in India?
That is not something we are looking at for now. But of course, if we do come across someone who is doing great work, you never know.
How do you plan to market a game like God of War: Chains of Olympus? Will you be heavily advertising it, or are you relying on the God of War name and word-of-mouth?
We do plan to undertake a certain amount of publicity for the game. You will see in-store promotion etc. But we cannot go all out in advertising a game like this due to its adult rating. We don't really have strict guidelines for age restrictions in India, so its up to us to take on that responsibility and exercise a certain amount of self-censorship. But yes, there will be promotion for the game. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue (GT5) is another matter. We will not only be promoting the game well, but we're also planning GT5 tournaments soon.
There is talk of the PSP doing extremely well in India, even outselling the PS2. Did you foresee this?
Not at all. We're frankly a little surprised at the way it has been selling. We underestimated the demand for the PSP and now we're running out of stock. Even for God of War, we sat down with Milestone (software distributors for PlayStation) to estimate the demand, but we're already running out of stock on the release date itself. However, I wouldn't say the PSP is outselling PS2. Those who say this is are the ones who keep an eye on the core gamers. The PSP is more popular with the core gamers, whereas the PS2 is for everyone. But we are thrilled with the way both are selling.
Is there a plan to introduce the PlayStation Network (PSN) online gaming service and the PSN Store for PSP and PS3 in India?
Yes, PSN is already there; it's just a matter of switching it on. But the PSN Store will come. Indians are intelligent; they will find a way to get what they want. According to our estimates, there are already about 2,500 people in India who are signed up on PSN even before the service has officially been launched. But first we need to see if there is enough broadband internet penetration, without which the service will not be effective. We're hoping for WiMax to gain popularity. That will add a lot of value to the PSP with its Wi-Fi capabilities and the ability to view maps via GPS.
Do you see Microsoft's Xbox 360 console as competition for the PS3 in India?
Not really. We're kind of in the same boat. Console gaming is nascent, so we don't really see the Xbox 360 as competition; we're just happy to see gaming gain popularity. Maybe, once that happens, we will become bitter rivals like Pepsi and Coke.
The Xbox 360 is expected to see another price cut in India in the coming days. Can we expect the same with the PS3 in the near future?
We are comfortable with the way the PS3 is priced. We will reduce prices when we see fit, but at the moment, we are happy with the current pricing. I hear the Xbox 360 Core console will drop to Rs 10,000. We welcome such a move, because it means more people will be able to afford next-generation gaming; that is the future of console gaming.
Do you plan to push the Blu-Ray high definition video format, which is supported by the PS3, in India? Will we see more Bollywood films released on Blu-Ray?
We have brought around 30 Blu-Ray movie titles to India. The problem is that it is not viable for us to censor Blu-Ray content like we can with DVD releases. A substantial investment would be required to allow editing of Blu-Ray titles so that they are suitable for Indian audiences in accordance with the censor board's guidelines. So we are unable to bring too many foreign titles to India. Bollywood too will take time to adopt Blu-Ray since there isn't an installed base of Blu-Ray players in India, nor the facilities to manufacture Blu-Ray media.
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